If the universe had taught him anything, it was that megalomaniacal computers always turned out to be irritants. Even amongst this overused trope, however, ENZU was exceptional. Like most of its kind, it had enslaved a defenseless populace, started a pointless campaign of conquest, and attempted to kill him and his companion; unlike others, it continued to be a thorn in the Doctor’s side even after he’d programmed it to blow itself up.
He glared at Peri, and cursed ENZU again for putting him at odds with her. “You’re being ridiculous!”
“Yeah, maybe,” she conceded. “Coming within a hair–and I mean that literally!–of a lobotomy tends to make me a wee bit unreasonable.”
“Exaggerating!” Peri boggled at him. “I still have the dotted lines on my forehead that that thing drew to make a straight cut!”
“Yes, well…” The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck, trying to distract himself from the uncomfortable knowledge that Peri was, if anything, understating the case. It had been a very close call indeed before he’d rescued her. “Be that as it may, there is no reason for you to hold a grudge against every machine in the universe.”
“You’re right, but I still don’t want anything from that food dispenser. Not tonight. It looks a little too much like our late friend for me to trust it.”
“Fine,” the Doctor huffed ungraciously. “I’ll take you to Graibus Seven. They have a rather nice curry there, as I recall.”
“I recall that curry very well, thank you, and I’ll pass!” She gave him a look of utter disgust. “How about Earth? I could really go for some tapas, right about now and I found this gorgeous restaurant in Cordoba.”
“Cordoba? Spain? Earth?” The Doctor radiated incredulity. “We were just there recently! How about Celesquaa? Now there’s a–“
“Celesquaa?” Peri gave an unlady-like snort. “Last time we went there, Erimem and I suffered from Ming’s Revenge for a week!”
Peri shrugged. “I was going for some kind of space equivalent of Montezuma’s Revenge.” The Doctor still looked blank, so she elaborated with a grimace. “You know, the intergalactic trots? The–“
“Yes, thank you,” the Doctor interrupted hurriedly. “I get that part. I was just wondering about Ming.”
“He was an evil space emperor in a movie that came out a couple of years before I met you. It also had a hot blond guy and an ugly birdman that yelled a lot.” Peri shook her head, clearly realizing that the Doctor had distracted her. “Now, about finding a nice restaurant on Earth…”
“Absolutely not,” the Doctor said firmly. “Earth may be my favorite planet, but I feel myself becoming staid from too much time on the same soil.” He held up a hand against her impending whine. “How about a compromise? I’ll concoct an Earth delicacy of your choice for you in the TARDIS kitchen.”
The Doctor pulled himself to his full height. “You needn’t sound so surprised, Perpugilliam. I am a man of refinement, with a variety of experiences. Of course I can cook!”
“I guess your dress sense says everything one would ever want to know about your refinement–“
The Doctor nodded happily, quite pleased with the compliment. “Exactly!”
To the Doctor’s surprise, Peri sniggered at that. He raised a finger to challenge her, but she rushed on before he could say anything. “Most of your ‘varied experiences’, however, involve fighting monsters and running down corridors. Cooking, on the other hand, is a pretty peaceful activity, and is darn difficult to do while running.”
The Doctor drew himself up to his full height. “I’ll have you know, young lady, that I can do many things that require nothing but creativity, logic, and quiet concentration. I’m an expert in chess, painting, writing, sculpting, and cooking!”
“So you’re a perfect Renaissance Man then, are you?”
“While I may be hesitant to assume the mantle of ‘perfect,’” the Doctor said modestly, “ I must, in all honesty, admit that ‘Renaissance Man’ describes me rather well.”
“Terrific,” Peri choked out. “I guess that means I’ll be eating cold cereal around midnight.” Before the Doctor could respond to her lack of faith, Peri fled the room. He was irritated to hear the sound of uncontrollable giggles wafting in from the hallway.
“Right,” the Doctor huffed to himself. “I’ll show her. That girl will be presented with the best meal she’s ever had in her life. And it will be on the table promptly at half past five!”
Scowling because Peri had missed his comeback, the Doctor headed towards the TARDIS library. Now, if only he could remember which section contained the recipe books…
Peri had mentioned tapas, so the Doctor decided that he’d make a feast that would make a Spanish cocinero weep in admiration and envy. He started with the easier entrées--olives, cubed ham, various cheeses laid out in an attractive pattern–and then moved on to inventing a vinaigrette marinade for the artichokes and flipping an omelet (served cold, of course!) He considered smoking a salmon to serve as Salmon Ahumado, but abandoned the idea when he realized that he was completely out of capers.
The meal was charming and would undoubtedly impress Peri, but the Doctor was not content. It needed, he felt, something more. “Cordoba, was it?” he muttered to himself as he flipped through his recipe book. “How about salmorejo, the Cordoban version of gazpacho? I defy you to be anything but impressed by that, Perpugilliam Brown!”
Chuckling happily to himself, the Doctor began collecting the ingredients. When everything had been well mixed in a bowl, he went in search of a food processor…only to discover that it wasn’t where it should be.
Sighing as he mentally moved dinnertime to six o’clock, the Doctor began an exhaustive search of the kitchen. His food processor was nowhere to be found, but he did turn up an oscillator that he’d picked up on Andarqo Epsilon. “No reason this can’t be modified to do the job,” he declared triumphantly. “I’ll just use my welder to attach a couple of sharp knives and Bob’s my uncle! I can then call Peri down for dinner and will, perhaps, stop talking to myself…”
It was almost seven before Peri wandered into the kitchen to check on him. “Whatcha doin’?”
The Doctor shuddered at the colloquialism, but limited himself to a simple answer. “I’m modifying an expensive Andarqan turbo-oscillator to turn it into a common kitchen appliance, all for your benefit.”
“Huh,” she grunted irritably, as if he hadn’t been perfectly clear. Before he could say anything further, however, she noticed the tray of foods he’d already prepared. “Wow! You really pulled it off!”
“You needn’t sound so surprised,” he grumbled.
“Never doubted you for a second, Doc,” she said cheekily.
He slapped her hand away from the tray, with perhaps more force than he needed to use. “Wait until everything is prepared. And don’t call me Doc!”
She grinned unrepentantly. “Looks ready to me. What’s missing?”
“Merely the piece de résistance! The greatest gazpacho in the gastronomical galaxy! And now that this contraption is completed, we’ll be eating in just a moment.”
Peri shifted nervously. “Uh, Doctor… Isn’t gazpacho supposed to chill for a coupla hours?”
“There’s a section of the TARDIS that’s out of temporal sync with the rest of the ship,” the Doctor explained. “I’ve never gotten around to fixing it, mostly because it comes in handy every once in a while… such as tonight. I’ll just stick the soup in a portable cooling unit and place it in the anomalous room for a few minutes, and it will emerge five hours older and several degrees colder.”
“Well, what are you waiting for then? I’m starved!”
Feeling put out that Peri wasn’t more awed by his mechanical and culinary skills (to say nothing of his ingenuity in converting the turbo-oscillator and utilizing an atemporal anomaly), the Doctor petulantly jabbed a button. The oscillator began spinning, but too slowly to do much more than bruise the tomatoes. “The knives are causing more of a drag than I’d anticipated,” he muttered. “A bit more power should compensate for that, however.” He punched a few more buttons and the knives did begin cutting the vegetables, but it still wasn’t the pulverization effect that he’d been hoping for.
Ignoring Peri’s audible smirk, the Doctor stopped the machine and began tinkering in earnest. Satisfied that he finally had enough power routed to the blades, he stabbed the bottom one last time. “That should do it,” he declared happily.
The oscillator spun wildly, comminuting the ingredients well beyond his wildest dreams. He turned triumphantly towards Peri, hoping to finally see the recognition of his genius on her face. For a second he thought he saw just that, but then her eyes widened in alarm and her mouth opened in a startled “oh.”
He spun around just in time to see the oscillator explode. Yelling “get down,” he threw Peri to the ground and shielded her with his body. Glancing up cautiously, he saw a spurt of flame jump from the oscillator to his tapas tray, enveloping it in a giant ball of fire.
He began to tug on his Companion, hoping to drag her to safety, when the TARDIS’s environmental system finally kicked in. Within moments, he, Peri, and everything else in the kitchen were sopping, soggy messes.
With no little trepidation, the Doctor threw the wet curls out of eyes and turned to assess the damage done to his dinner. The tray that contained the tapas was partially melted, and the food itself was little more than charcoal and ashes. As for the gazpacho, all the liquid had boiled away instantly, leaving behind a solid mass of dried tomatoes and desiccated bread crumbs. To say that it looked less than appetizing was a rather large understatement.
He was still staring forlornly at their dinner when Peri clattered something in front of him. He looked down to see a bowl of milk-less, cold cereal staring up at him. The Doctor glanced at Peri, who shrugged and observed, “At least it isn’t midnight.”
He pushed the pink and yellow pellets around his bowl a few times before spooning up a few and bringing them to his mouth. He nearly spit them right out.
“What is that horrible concoction?” He shuddered eloquently. “It’s almost pure sugar!”
Peri’s mouth twitched and it was clear that it was taking all of her strength to fight off an attack of the giggles. “Silly Doctor,” she choked out. “Trix are for Time Lords!”
The Doctor frowned at the incongruous remark, which really did set Peri off. Booming to be heard over her peals of laughter, he growled, “I’m going to bed. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Given all the humiliations of the day, perhaps it wasn’t a surprise that the Doctor got lost on his way to his bedroom. He did regret, however, that it was Peri who found him and led him (by the hand! As if he were a child!) to his own room.
Once inside, he sighed to himself. “Ah, well. At least tomorrow should be uneventful.”